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The BBC's Jon Kay
"Sending tents, blankets and food"
 real 28k

Frances Maude MP, Shadow Defence
"Key resources were denied due to squabbling"
 real 28k

The Red Cross's David Alexander
"What we need here are contingency plans"
 real 28k

Saturday, 4 March, 2000, 18:22 GMT
Mozambique aid row grows
Fort George
Relief operation may have been delayed by infighting
A government minister has said the UK is leading the way helping Mozambique, despite Tory calls for an inquiry into its handling of the aid mission.

International development minister George Foulkes, visiting Kent International Airport to see the first direct aid from the UK to be sent out, said the UK had been at the forefront of responding to Mozambique's request for help.

"Britain is leading the way in its response, in its speed and generosity, and we hope we're setting an example to other wealthy countries which may want to help," he said.

But shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude has demanded an inquiry into claims that government infighting delayed the dispatch of vital aid to Mozambique.

Downing Street has sought to scotch reports that the deployment of rescue helicopters was held back because of a dispute between the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development over cost.

On Friday, International Development Secretary Clare Short revealed that an offer of help from the MoD was initially turned down because the price tag was too high.

Ms Short's comments followed her earlier claims that money was no object in the relief effort.

There have been suggestions that this arose out of some petty, personal squabble between two ministers. If that were the case it would be dreadful.

Francis Maude MP
Anonymous senior Army sources have since told the BBC that helicopters could have left on Monday were it not for the government dispute.

Officers have been quoted as expressing disgust at the "brinkmanship" of the Department for International Development.

Mr Maude told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We should have a really thorough inquiry into what went wrong here because we absolutely need to make sure this doesn't happen again.

'Silly scrap'

"What seems to have gone on here is that precious days were lost when the key thing to try to help save lives - which was helicopters and physical support - was denied to Mozambique because of some silly scrap between two departments."

Mr Maude added that Prime Minister Tony Blair should have been "knocking heads together" to sort out the problems.

Francis Maude MP
Francis Maude says Tony Blair should "knock heads together"
"When you have got departments at war with each other, ministers who can't talk to each other, then the Prime Minister has to deal with it.

"If the prime minister thinks he is too grand to deal with things like this he ought to think again."

Aid officials have also been adding their criticism, with many demanding a rigid system for dealing with disaster.

David Alexander of the Red Cross told Today programme that unless the government was prepared to adopt a firm strategy, similar problems could be experienced.

"What we need here and in many other places are contingency plans that can be scaled up in anticipation of a rising level of disaster," he said.

But Liberal Democrat shadow international development secretary, Dr Jenny Tonge, said calls by the Tories for an inquiry missed the point.

"It is far more important to make plans before disasters happen than to launch into detailed investigations of the past while a crisis is still at its height," she said.

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